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Former IBF champ returns to beat Hill

4/1/2007 - Boxing

MUNICH, Germany -- Ten years after his last fight, former
IBF champion Henry Maske unanimously outpointed Virgil Hill -- the
only fighter to ever beat the German.

The fight swung in the eighth round, when the 43-year-old
fighters' heads collided, sending Hill to the canvas. The American
fought bleeding from a cut above the left eye the rest of the way.

The judges scored it 117-110, 116-113 and 117-110 for Maske, who
retired after Hill beat him in 1996 to unit two light heavyweight
titles.

Maske put on a performance against the WBA cruiserweight
champion, whose current title wasn't on the line, that even his
countrymen didn't expect. He came under fire at home for climbing
back in the ring after 10 years of running McDonald's franchises.

But Hill said he wasn't surprised by Maske, who trained almost a
year for the fight.

"I was forewarned. Henry had everything to gain and nothing to
lose," Hill said. "I was in good shape -- but he pulled it off."

The split-decision win a decade ago by Hill was the German's
only defeat.

"In the middle of the fight, I knew I had turned things
around," Maske said. "I made him come to me, my punches began
landing. I told myself I want this -- pull it together."

Hill (50-6, 23 knockouts) may have won the early rounds against
Maske (31-1, 11 knockouts), who looked stiff and lacked timing on
his punches. There were, however, very few punches thrown.

But after the two traded a flurry of blows in the fourth, Maske
seemed to get stronger with every round. Hill kept landing body
shots, but the German's right jab began to land.

Maske landed several good shots in the final rounds, picking up
points as Hill fought the bleeding cut. But the American said it
didn't hurt his vision.

"It's just the usual thing that happens at fights," Hill said.
"I'm disappointed, I didn't reach my goal."

Hill said he wanted a rubber match.

"Let's talk about it in 10 years, Virgil," Maske said.

Only 26 percent of Germans polled believed Maske could pull off
the comeback -- and it is likely to reaffirm his status as a huge
idol in his homeland. The bout was expected to pull in a huge
television audience in Germany.

Maske said his comeback was inspired by watching Hill gain his
fifth world title at age 42 by beating Valery Brudov in January
2006.

"I have to thank him. That's when it began to itch -- I thought
if he could do it, then I could, too," Maske said.

After the final bell, the 12,000 spectators in Munich's Olympic
Hall gave Maske a standing ovation.